The last several weeks have been a flood of news about benefit cuts. Commissary cuts, Tricare changes, housing allowance cuts ... whoa.
The really confusing part of all this is the different options out there. The President's plan proposed one set of changes. A commission put together by Congress to study military benefits proposed another. Now it's up to lawmakers to decided what -- if anything -- that want to do.
Sometimes it feels like people who don't live the military life are awfully willing to mess with the things that make it tolerable.
Some of the ideas that have been proposed aren't bad. Some of them are horrendous.
But what if we got to pick our own changes? What if lawmakers actually listened to us (that was the goal of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission - MCRMC - after all) and did what the majority wanted?
That's why you should take our poll. We've rounded up a variety of the proposed changes and made them as simple as possible poll questions. Below you can read a little more about each suggestion. Take the poll at the bottom of the post, or to the right of the screen (if you're not on mobile) ... and let us know what you think in the comments. We'll tell you about the poll results soon.
You commissary cuts options:Combine the commissary and exchange systems. Still sell food at cost, still sell other stuff at a profit.
Combine the commissary and exchange systems. The MCRMC proposed this one. They want to still sell food at cost, while still selling other stuff (like computers, furniture and alcohol) at a mark-up. That surcharge would still be collected on groceries. And commissary employees would no longer be Government Service workers but would, instead, be funded by a different pot of money.
Ditch the commissary altogether except for rural and overseas stores.
Ditch the commissary altogether except for rural and overseas stores. This plan has been floated by a variety of lawmakers over the years. The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) folks have lots of reasons why this wouldnt work well, not the least of which is that eliminating stores that get a lot of traffic stateside would result in higher costs for the ones that are still open. Still, it's an option that has been suggested.
Sell the whole system to Walmart and let them operate it.
Sell the whole system to Walmart and let them operate it. This suggestion has also been floated by some lawmakers in the past. If you could convince a civilian chain, like Walmart, to buy and operate the whole system the government would save some coin and there would still be a grocery store on base. It probably wouldn't offer anything like the savings we currently experience (since a civilian store is unlikely to run something at a loss, which is how DeCA currently operates).
Keep the stores as they are, but raise prices.
Keep the stores, but raise prices. This is the idea proposed in the President's 2016 budget. The DoD wants to slowly eliminate the bulk of the funding that currently lets the commissary sell goods at cost (plus that 5 percent surcharge). To do they would have to reduce hours, reduce employees and raise prices. In the long term some stores would probably shut down as well.
Leave them completely alone.
Leave them completely alone. The commissary system receives a $1.3 billion subsidy from tax payers to operate. To me and you that is a butt-ton of money. To the DoD? Small change. There's always the possibility that lawmakers will see the value many military members place on the benefit (as evidenced by the MCRMC report) and decide to just leave the whole thing alone. Unlikely, but possible.